Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.
— John Adams

This is the personal website of Stephan Groschwitz. For more information click here.










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Long time no see... Well, I was busy.
20.04.16, 15:32, Topics: culture;media;announcements;personal

Go Fish: How to win contempt and influence people
23.08.11, 01:24, Topics: wishlist;personal;culture

I think it's safe to say that one can learn much about fellow humans by learning about what they crave and desire. As far as material possessions are concerned, I decided to offer up some information about myself (and incidentally help friends and familly with christmas and other shopping lists) under a new rubric - the wishlist.

The first installment should be no surprise to those who see my frequent 'shares' of Mr. Fish's cartoons on facebook. Mr. Fish is frequently featured on and certainly a highlight of my internet perusals. He just published a book of cartoons and several essays, and I'm eager to read it. The marketing blurb says "nobody--right, left, nor middle--is safe from his razor-edged satire" - if having entertained and offended me is an indicator, I would have to agree. But he's witty and sharp - and so deserves a spot on my wishlist.

What's wrong with science communication
07.08.11, 00:52, Topics: science;narrative;media

This tweet from The Climate Reality Project (formerly The Climate Project, which is remarkable in itself, and likely the topic of a later post) is a good example for what's wrong with the debate about climate change:


ClimateReality: .@UN scientist: “We have enough evidence, enough scientific findings which should convince people action has to be taken”


What is so interesting about this tweet is the assumption it reflects: if there is scientific consensus, i.e. if the truth about climate change has been established in the community most rigorously and purely concerned with discovering the truth, then naturally, people should be convinced by that evidence to take action. The problem with this approach lies in the understanding of society that it relies on. To make a long story short, it remains solidly grounded within the world as it appears from the perspective of science, with (scientific, rational, instrumental) reason as the only viable mechanism connecting knowledge and action.

However, that's not how other social 'function' systems work. Politics, as anyone observing the recent debate about the 'debt crises' can attest, does not operate along the lines of reason in this sense. The political reasoning is rather determined by who can 'secure his or her own will against that of others' - or by 'power, in the classic definition of Max Weber.

Other function systems use other 'reasons' yet again - the economic system only 'cares' about whether one has or doesn't have its system-specific medium of communication, i.e. money or property. The legal system cares not about what's true or whether you have, but whether something is legal.

The astute observer will now object that money of course plays a big role in politics or the law, and rightfully so. From a systems-theoretical point of view, these relevancies are however not internal to the system, but irritations if you will. Disturbances between systems can reach the point of corruption, when the output of one system, or better: it's system-logic, disrupts the 'proper' functioning of another system.

All this is systems theory, but my point about climate change communication is a more focused one: The ultimate goal of science is not to create final certainty. Truth, and scientific knowledge, is not, and never has been, final certainty. Instead, it is the material for creating new knowledge, and as such it is never the 'last word'.

The domain for the 'last word', instead, is politics. Power creates facts, and it is the job of politicians to overcome ambiguity.

So, to hope for science to exercise power in the political system (or any other system, for that matter) is futile. Scientific knowledge will never by itself, automatically, cause responses in other systems that appear logical within the system of science (at least not reliably so). If actors want to get something done in the political system or the economic system, they need to play within the rules of these systems, since they speak only their own languages. If the climate protection movement does not realize this, it will remain toothless.

I am not suggesting to give up science - to the contrary. The place where movements become powerful is in creating new (often by dissolving old) structural couplings between social systems. In practice this means having to create narratives that reshape the space of possibility (or: Anschlussfähigkeit) across system boundaries in ways that change how social systems irritate each other. Don't point to scientific evidence, hoping that will awake mankind's reason. It won't. Tell the stories of crises and how they have been overcome. Do it in ways that inspire the actors in various social systems to shape their actions along these lines, and to recreate these narratives. After all, narratives are the system-transcending, system-overcoming, system-shaping real glue that makes history.

But that's another story.

Patience is a virtue... or: do our assumptions about how things ought to function work against us sometimes?
06.08.11, 20:57, Topics: culture;media;technology

Case in point:

Happy Birthday Marshall McLuhan
21.07.11, 14:22, Topics: culture;technology;media

The prophet of modern communication technology and its effects on society would have turned 100 years today. Happy birthday Marshall McLuhan!

The new banishment - internet access as human right
18.07.11, 11:55, Topics: culture;media;politics;technology

You might not have heard about it, but there's a lot going on in regards to the newest human right - internet access. Especially some corporate inetrests are pushing for three-strikes rules that would in effect banish individuals who violate (or have been alleged to have violated) copyright from the internet. The lack of due process in many of these cases is a serious concern of course, but I believe it goes much further. Internet access is becoming (or already has!) so important for people in the information age that it should properly be understood as a human right The Organization for Security ad Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) agrees, thankfully.

There's magic in every new beginning...
07.07.11, 10:54, Topics: announcements;personal

... said the main character in Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game. We now have, finally, arrived in our permanent place here in Somerville, and there certainly is something magical about it (no, I didn't get an iPad). Of course it's a bit stressful, but we love the place, the neighborhood, the neighbors - and we'd love it if you came visit! We certainly have enough space for you: there's an extra guest room plus space in my office/man 'nest'. Well, once our furniture arrives early next week.

There IS such a thing as free bliss
07.07.11, 10:29, Topics: culture

Two new songs, in early stages of development, by a new formation being built by Nick Zammuto of one of my favorite bands The Books. They are free and freely shareable, so enjoy!

Groan Man, Don't Cry!

04.07.11, 15:29, Topics: culture;politics

From Yahoo News:

ONONDAGA, N.Y. (AP) — Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike's handlebars and hit his head on the pavement. [...]

Troopers say Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed. The bike spun out of control, and Contos toppled over the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Troopers say Contos would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.

Moving Date
30.06.11, 08:08, Topics: personal,announcements

We are moving to our permanent home in Somerville today. The movers are not going to deliver our Cincinnati stuff until mid-July, which means we'll have a very minimal lifestyle for a bit.

Our phone numbers and email addresses obviously will stay the same, but if you want an updated mailing address, please contact us. Love to hear from you.

28.06.11, 12:24, Topics: personal

Thanks to Mike the trip to Boston was a wonderful success, even though it started with a rear-end by a semi truck. Car is totaled, but Mike and I had a total blast. And who needs a car in Boston anyway?

Boston: The capital of the world.
15.06.11, 18:09, Topics: personal;announcements

"Boston is actually the capital of the world. You didn't know that? We breed smart-ass, quippy, funny people. Not that I'm one of them. I just sorta sneaked in under the radar."

John Krasinski

Me too, apparently. And I love it. We will occupy our permanent place early July and will have a guest room, so please come visit. You won't regret it.

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